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Proposed island airport tunnel clears a hurdle Add to ...

The proposed pedestrian tunnel connecting Toronto's island airport to the mainland is one step closer to reality.

The Toronto Port Authority, which owns the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, announced Tuesday that the draft of a federal environmental assessment has found there are no long-term impediments to building the project.

The EA draft, prepared by Dillon Consulting Ltd., found there would be some minor disruptions while the tunnel is being constructed, but no issues in the long run.

The final EA is expected some time next year.

Controversy has long swirled around constructing a fixed link to the island airport. Outgoing Mayor David Miller made stopping the bridge his signature issue in the 2003 election campaign.

Rather than fight the bridge battle again, the port authority is looking at a $45-million underground passageway for foot-traffic only - something it argues the city has no power to stop. It intends to levy a fee on airport users - not tax dollars - to pay for the project.

However, CommunityAIR, a group of residents living on the Toronto Islands and along the waterfront, intends to keep fighting the tunnel because it believes the link will pave the way for more flights to and from the island.

The group dismissed the draft EA as a "sham."

"This is a study that was prepared by the TPA's chosen consultants, reviewed by the TPA, and approved by the TPA. There has been no arm's length approval - by anyone," said Brian Iler, the chair of CommunityAIR.

Paul MacLeod of Dillon Consulting countered that the proponent of a project always selects the firm that performs the EA.

"I'm not aware of a project where the EA firm was selected independent of the proponent (who will be paying for the EA study), he said by e-mail.

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